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UPHA Classic Grand Championships

Thursday night in Kansas City is always a special night for the American Royal. Young talented riders, competing in the senior and exceptional challenge cup finals, share the stage with young talented horses and ponies competing for big bucks in the UPHA Classic grand championships. This year there was no shortage of talent in either case.

The UPHA Classics paid out more than $135, 000 this year, an increase of more than $7000 from last year. The increase in prize money was felt mostly in the pony classes. This year, each grand championship class offered the same amount ($12,000) in prize money and the entry fees for each class were added back in ($600 per entry).

The UPHA Five-Gaited Classic served as the evening’s finale and the great class ended the evening on a high note. A very deep field of three-year-olds paraded through the gate hoping for a piece of the prize money. When results were announced it was the Roseridge Heir - Lights Of Fantasia daughter, Have You Ever, that had topped the field with a unanimous decision by the panel. Owned by Leatherwood Farm and ridden by Smith Lilly of Mercer Springs Farm, Have You Ever had caused a sensation at Louisville with her performance and ended her season with another explosive effort in Kemper Arena. The Perfect Face was purchased at Blue Ridge Classic by Priscilla Gise and turned heads at Louisville with Andy Freseth in the three-year-old mare class. Sired by Touch of Nostalgia and out of Just Another Pretty Face, The Perfect Face captured the unanimous reserve grand championship. Jewel’s Teton (Family Jewels x Sultan’s Society) and Tammy DeVore also caused a stir at Louisville and they ended the season with third place for the James Hartley family. Callaway’s Inspiration and Debbie Foley, She’s My Desire B.H. and Wendy Winstead, Breaking News and Rob Kritzler, Riley’s Town and Pat McConnell, and Champagne’s Legal Tender with Ron Hulse claimed the remaining money and ribbons.

Five walk-trot entries put on a show for their grand championship but world’s champion Callaway’s Sugarplum couldn’t be stopped on the way to the unanimous victory with Debbie Foley for David Nierenberg. Her sire, Callaway’s Blue Norther, was well represented in the class as he sired reserve grand champion Aurora Borealis as well. Rob Kritzler was on board for the strong effort for Reedannland. Tom Volz rode the Caramac-sired Callaway’s Bulldog Edition to third place for Toni Guarnera and was followed in the ribbons by Callaway’s Jess Luvon and Steve Demjen, and Monogram’s Toi Star with Amy Huffman.

The battle in the Fine Harness Classic was incredible. A strong field of 11 entries put on a show for the crowd. The depth and quality of the class couldn’t be denied and neither could the son of Periaptor and Sunday Song, If I Had A Love. Nelson Green drove to the win with two first place votes for Alpha-Sun Stables. Harlem’s C My Radiance (Radiant Sultan x Summer Scent), since winning at Midwest and Lexington with Pres Oder, has kept people talking and turned in a strong effort for the reserve for Mary Jensen. Kathy Capsuto, the owner of If I Had A Love when he won at Louisville as a two-year-old in 2000, presented another top youngster to third place for Escalade Stables. Sired by Tornaado and out of Belle O’ Shea, Dancing Up A Storm took the yellow ribbon and a first place vote under the direction of Wendy Winstead. Just About Perfect and Lisa Strickland, Xuxa and Janet Crampton, Lucky Vision and Danette Musselman, Handsome Heir and Dr. Raun, and Queensbury Jasmine with Rick Wallen finished out the ribbon count.

If you earned a ribbon in the UPHA Park Pleasure Classic Grand Championship, you earned a pretty big chunk of change, not to mention the fact that with 16-entries, half of the three-year-olds were going to leave the ring without a ribbon. Competition was tough enough that the panel was somewhat divided in naming the winner. Their two first place votes for Kool Tyme BH, sired by Harlem Town, were enough to take Steve Wheeler to the winner's circle for Janene Steggeman. What a way to end an unbelievable year for the three-year-old with more than $21,000 in prize money for the class. Sharon Backer rode Again Again, sired by Periaptor and out of I Did I Did, to the reserve title for High Spirits Farm in a continuation of their very successful weekend in Kansas City. Rob and Jackie Tanner consistently bring out talented Periaptor youngsters and Jackie Tanner rode Periaptor's Stardust (out of Starbound PV) to the yellow ribbon and considerable prize money for Joan MacFarlane. The Desert's Supreme Memories youngster, The Enhancer, finished a respectable fourth place with Virgil Helm on board for Jim and Carol Tucker. Sparkling Heiress and Chris Reiser, Sacre Blue and AJ Bruwer, It's Startime and Pat McConnell, and Tribal Chief with Jerry Hutson, were able to capture the remaining ribbons.

The road ponies had a big 10-entry grand championship class, giving them more potential prize money than last year. The Saddlebred classes had all been incredibly deep and the ponies also faced world-class competition across the board. The judges had a hard time deciding this class as well with so many great performances. Ultimately, P.T. Cruiser came away with the first place prize with Andy Freseth driving for Bob Facciola. Bali Hai and Jessie Pettie put together an explosive performance for an incredible end to their great season from John Shea Stables. Sired by Cherry's Dream Boy, Bali Hai's reserve came with one of the first place votes for Pettie. Buckwheat, the junior world's grand champion sired by Cherry's Playboy, had to settle for third place and one first place vote with Josh Greer in the deep class. Heartland Wonderful Miss, by Dun-Haven Bandolier, was fourth with Beth Campbell driving for Darrel Kolkman and also claimed one of the top votes. Zildgian and Jeff Vaughn, Dun-Haven Majestic Motion and Rick Wallen, Told You So and Jimmy Miller, and King's High Spirit with Dr. Raun, all took home a piece of the nearly $18,000 up for grabs.

Six harness ponies worked hard for their grand championship class but it was the attention-grabbing Heartland Triple Crown (Dun-Haven Little King x Heartland Whisper) that took the title with a powerful performance and expert showmanship by Mary Gaylord McClean. Triple Crown earned the title with a unanimous decision and edged out reserve grand champion Nabucco. Gib Marcucci drove Mary Campbell's sporty entry to the reserve. Conqueror's Colleen was third with Geof Dixon driving for Dan and Leah Light, and was followed in the ribbons by High Mark and Darlene Trento-Wright, Miss Fuente and Rick Peel, and Diamond's Truely Supreme with Randy Harper.

Geof Dixon returned to the ring in the UPHA Hackney Pony Classic Grand Championship with Stately Affair and this time went to the winner's circle, after a strong performance, to claim a big part of the 15,000 prize for Easton Equine. Stately Affair, sired by Dun-Haven Ringmaster and out of Belle-Cora, took the title unanimously. Heartland Elise (Dun-Haven Little King x Heartland Beauty) continued her successful season and was named the unanimous reserve grand champion with Mary McClean driving for Golden Creek. Heartland Twice As Nice and Randy Harper, The Final Contender and Gib Marcucci, and Tommy Hilfiger with John Shea, all took home a nice share of the money with the remaining prizes.

The pleasure driving ponies competed for more than 15,000 for their grand championship and the competitive field worked hard to impress the panel. Seamair Dear Sir, a product of the Pritzlaff's Seamair Farm, was expertly driven to the win for Mrs. Pritzlaff by Cindy Cram from Oakwoods Farm. Dear Sir earned two of the first place votes for the win. Darrel Kolkman drove another Dun-Haven Bandolier youngster, Heartland Secret, to the reserve grand championship with the remaining first place vote for Heartland Hackney Farm. She's A Ticket and Kathy Capsuto were able to claim a top three finish for Escalade Stables. They edged out River View's Royal Salute and Bob Richards, Wonmore Diamond Gem and Karen Frickey, and Heartland Spectacular with Kurt Antonacci.

The UPHA Classics offered big money and incredible talent in class after class. World-class campaigners represented their sires and dams well and so many times, just earning a ribbon in such competitive classes was an honor. The night gave great hope for what we can expect to see in the ring for many years to come.

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